Float Like a Falcon, Sting Like a ‘B’
Bentley was 2-0 at the Haymakers for Hope charity fight night in May. James Arredondo ’04, MBA ’10 and Vanessa (Razney) Baca ’10 pummeled through months of training to reach the ring at the House of Blues Boston — amazing family and friends and raising thousands of dollars to knock out cancer.
Vanessa, you were pretty nervous leading up to the match. James, you seemed raring to go. What was going though your mind?
VB: I couldn’t sit still. The first fight ended super quickly, then suddenly it was “Get your gloves on” and I could feel the butterflies coming. I started hitting mitts with my trainer right below the ring entrance and thought, this is real. Walking up the stairs, I knew I could not look out into the crowd. I wanted to focus on the task at hand.
JA: I’ve seen a ton of concerts at the House of Blues, so part of me was just excited to be backstage! Hey, this is where the rock stars hang out. But then, hearing I made weight, hearing that first fight get going and then getting my hands wrapped … I was like, let’s do this.
What was it like once you were in the ring?
JA: I got some coaching to make eye contact, but everything was on autopilot. If you asked me to describe what happened in the fight right now, I couldn’t. It was just go-time.
VB: For my fight, it was honestly different than what I anticipated. I had planned for how she fought. I knew she would get better over time, but I didn’t expect she’d be on top of me the entire match. It made me change my approach a bit, going side to side instead of stepping back. Props to her, because she definitely took me out of my element.
Why fight for cancer?
JA: I got hurt training for the Boston Marathon in 2016 and that’s what got me into boxing. After one class, I’m looking around and everyone’s on the same level except for this one guy. I’m like, wow: He knows what he’s doing. He said he’d just done Haymakers. It became my personal challenge. I applied three times before being matched with someone at my experience and weight levels.
VB: My journey to this is threefold. I began boxing about eight years ago for workouts. Then, five years ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s perfectly fine now — a rock star in remission. But that was always in the back of my mind. I wanted to help other people with cancer. One of my coworkers had done Haymakers. That’s when everything clicked.
JA: Over the three years of waiting to be accepted, a close coworker got colon cancer, some family friends were diagnosed. Everybody, thankfully, is now in remission. But that was motivating. If I can go out and raise money so people can get care or ultimately end the disease, which is everybody’s goal, I’m doing it.
What do you say to someone like your mom, who’s worried about your face?
JA: Do you get hurt? Totally. Sparring with the guys at my gym is no joke. Blood, bruises. When I got hit by my opponent on fight night, I saw stars a couple times, but was able to shake it off. And what’s cool is there’s so much more to it. In the beginning you have to think so much about the littlest movements.
VB: From the footwork to the head moves to where you hold your hands. It’s like a dance. Slide under this punch. Slip under that hook. There’s something beautiful in the movement that I’ve gravitated toward. And unlike a team sport, it’s on you. You’ve studied. You’ve run. You’ve hit the heavy bag.
JA: I was able to go on autopilot because we put in all that work. Looking ahead, I want to do more tournaments. Even though we both won, there’s still so much more to learn and do.
What surprised you most about being part of Haymakers?
VB: Our orientation was at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and we got a whole tour of the facility and met past Haymakers. I can’t say enough good things about this organization.
JA: It also gave me the chance to reconnect with so many people I hadn’t talked with in a long time.
VB: You share your video on LinkedIn or Facebook and the people who donated … it’s like, I haven’t heard from this person in years. They were so generous.
JA: We’re super grateful for their support.
Do you have a favorite combination?
JA: 3-2 [left hook, right cross]. I’m a southpaw. Anytime I can step out to the right and get them to chase me a bit, that 3-2 is really effective.
VB: I go for the 1-2 [left jab, right cross] duck 2. And I also like the double jab cross.
Any advice for novice boxers?
VB: Find the right coach in a gym where you feel comfortable. Be ready to work hard.
JA: And know that you can do more than you think you can.
JA: The training is on you. If you keep going, you’ll find more. And it’s a really cool feeling.